I saw this posted in my personal face book ‘memories’ today from 19th August 2014.
“After hurting my back in some weird way, I just tried osteopathy and loved it! Sweet relief after a few weeks of lower back pain, headaches and having trouble walking or standing for more than 10 minutes.”
That was just the beginning for me. You can read my story here and here but I think it’s enough to say that it was a very big, terrifying downhill slide from there.
The me in my “before” photo in mid July last year had been wondering why on earth I looked so puffy, why I was so exhausted, why I had been waking through the night with rolling anxiety attacks with my heart pounding and no way to talk myself down.
But like every other symptom I had been having for the past 8 years, I just wrote it off as menopause related. Due to my antiphospholipid syndrome, an acquired autoimmune disease I discovered I had after two miscarriages, before my high risk pregnancy with my youngest son, I was going through menopause naturally.
The only symptom that didn’t seem to fit was the swelling that developed in my face and the back and leg pain that I now know came from my kidneys and liver starting to slide down to 50% function.
When I speak about “before” and “after” Hashimoto’s, I really need to clarify that what I mean is:
“Before I knew I had Hashimoto’s and after I knew I had Hashimoto’s”.
The reality is, I had my Hashi’s a long time before I knew it was there. We human’s are amazingly adaptable, the slow growing symptoms just became my normal. I felt healthy. I often said that I was one of those people who never got sick.
Until I did.
There is a very clear distinction between my life before Hashi’s and my life after Hashi’s.
Before my Hashi’s fully manifested, I looked after myself without much real thought and took my health and my life for granted.
During the height of my Hashi’s, nothing at all was certain and nothing could be taken for granted.
Every plan I had made for my life and the direction my career was taking was all wiped away, seemingly overnight.
I didn’t know if I would live or if I would be disabled.
I had no idea if I would be able to work again and support myself and my family.
I wondered if I would ever look and feel and think like myself again.
I felt absolutely no sense of control.
For someone who had always been able to meet every challenge, take charge of her life and be independent, it was a place I had never been before. I felt completely helpless, lost and afraid that my life was over.
So I did what I have always done.
I started searching for ways that I could help myself and get my power and sense of control back.
I began the plan to recreate my life after Hashimoto’s.
I started my search for answers with the belief that my primary condition was the autoimmune disease which was creating the attack on my thyroid which led to my Hashi’s. My doctor was of the opinion that there was nothing you could do for autoimmune disease but treat the symptoms but I wanted to know why?
Every disease, everything that happens in our lives begins somewhere, so what lead to my body attacking my thyroid to the point where it was no longer functioning and more importantly, what could I do to stop or reverse it?
What I found when I widened my search from thyroid disease to include remission or healing from autoimmune disease, I started finding the stories of hope and inspiration that I had been looking for.
What I discovered was that there were several key factors that I saw across the board in all of the people who were living well with autoimmune disease.
They assumed personal responsibility for their own health and healing, remained positive and researched their condition.
They followed some version of a healing, anti-inflammatory diet including a focus on healing their gut and addressing vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
They were actively seeking the “root cause” of their autoimmune conditions (e.g. underlying infection, food intolerances, stress, etc), and understood the importance of managing their emotions, attitude and environment.
They found a community of like minded people who really understood how they felt and lived.
They made peace with their body, cultivated acceptance of physical limitations and focussed on the positives day by day.
My doctor’s prescription of thyroxine, was not going to address my extremely low vitamin D and B or help my kidneys and liver recover from being at 50% function, even though he assured me that all I needed to do was take my “one little tablet per day” and I would be fine.
But I wasn’t fine. In fact, I became worse. I became so disabled I could barely speak, think or function.
I knew that if I was going to save myself, I had to take 100% responsibility for my health and my life and commit myself fully to getting the best health I could.
So here is what I have personally done to help myself transition from before to after.
- I immediately started the Autoimmune Paleo Diet or AIP as it is known to it’s many followers. This modified version of Paleo is designed to eliminate every food known to cause inflammation, including grey area foods that may cause inflammation. The initial elimination phase of the diet is not for life, it is designed to gradually reintroduce foods until you know what you can safely eat and what you can’t.
Sarah Ballentyne of The Paleo Mom herself has multiple autoimmune conditions which she has greatly improved including losing a large amount of weight. There is so much research behind this healing diet and so many wonderful bloggers posting delicious recipes and blogging about their own healing and progress. It’s a fabulous time to be transitioning to a healing diet as there is so much information freely available.
- I found a naturopath to help me resolve my vitamin and mineral deficiencies, heal my leaky gut which is thought to be the cause of autoimmune disease and keep digging for underlying causes.
I had my adrenal levels tested as adrenal fatigue is a common factor in autoimmune conditions. As suspected my cortisol was extremely low which contributed to how bad I felt. For autoimmune thyroid disease, low iron and adrenal disfunction often go hand in hand. The cumulative stresses of autoimmune disease have a domino affect on all the functions of the body, putting them all under strain.
- I found a Doctor who would support me in my health goals, listen to my opinions and who would prescribe Natural Desiccated Thyroid or Thyroid Extract as it is known here in Australia. This is available from Compounding chemists, who I had no idea even existed until I did some research.
Compounding Chemists will often know the local doctors who prescribe NDT. It is made from the thyroid glands of pigs and contains all the thyroid hormones that our own thyroid would give us if it were functioning; T1, T2, T3, T4 and calcitonin.
Most people with autoimmune disease have leaky gut which means you cannot absorb nutrients properly so many people on thyroxine which is T4 only cannot convert the T4 into the vital T3 which is needed by every single cell of our bodies. Their gut, liver and other organs are compromised and so many patients find themselves on higher and higher doses without feeling any better.
- I do my absolute best to reduce stress, listen to my bodies signals and eliminate toxic substances in my environment. This included switching to natural toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and soaps. Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs whatever is put on it. I only use coconut oil on my skin and only use allergen and cruelty free makeup.
At the height of my Hashi’s when my body was in crisis, I listened to my hypnotherapy mp3 2 or 3 times a day to get deep relaxation and calm my anxiety. This was an absolute blessing, especially on those bad nights when sleep was hard to find and every chest pain and palpitation was terrifying. You can find my hypnotherapy MP3 here.
- As much as possible I stick to going to bed at the same time and I rest when I need to. A hallmark of having autoimmune disease is having limited energy that runs out fast. Pushing past your limits can mean creating an autoimmune flare that can put you out of action for a day or longer. Sleep is essential to allow your body to heal, digest and rest. I also make sure on weekends when I have no demands on me that I stay in bed as long as I need to before getting up. These days needing to stay in bed is rare, but in the early days, I took every chance I could to rest and relax.
- I had a heart ultrasound and a heart Holter Monitor test to rule out issues with my heart. Heart issues often accompany thyroid disease. My levels of T3 were so low that my heart beat very slowly with missed beats or palpitations and my blood pressure was extremely low. I also experienced chest pain and feelings of my heart stopping. Having the heart function tests was great reassurance for me that my heart was structurally sound and the symptoms were a direct result of not enough thyroid hormones. This really helped me manage my anxiety when I had heart symptoms while I waited for my body to heal.
- I take my health and my disease seriously and I have strong boundaries about what I eat and how far I push myself. I am extremely reactive to certain foods like gluten and soy and I am not prepared to risk consciously eating them. This can often mean having to adapt to socialising by taking my own food or eating before I meet up with friends but it’s a choice I gladly make. The consequences on how I feel are only felt by me and they can be devastating.
Because I know that my autoimmune conditions have been with me without my knowledge for probably decades and that I became so dangerously ill before Hashi’s, getting my version of the best possible health available is going to take a long time.
But it’s time well invested and I am 100% committed to my health and happiness.
Right now I am 98% symptom free.
My hair is growing back, there is new growth sprouting all over my head and around my hairline.
My nails are strong again and my skin is soft and much more supple.
I have lost all the puffiness in my face, especially around my eyes and the swelling in my feet has all gone.
All the pain in my back, legs and feet has gone except for a small spot on the sole of my left foot which comes and goes.
I sleep better and I have enough energy to get me through the day and I can now go for a walk without feeling like I am pushing and being exhausted the next day.
My vision is better than ever. The “film” I had over my eyes that caused my blurry vision and watery eyes is gone.
I have lost over 18 kilo’s in weight and I look younger and better than I have in years.
Best of all, my motivation and focus have come back as if my brain and body have been slowly coming back to life and that feels amazing.
To wake up in the morning with a desire to get things done and the energy to complete it is so wonderful and something that I am so grateful for.
I still need to take very good care of me. A stressful event is enough to throw me into a flare and a flare for me these days usually means gut issues, nausea and exhaustion so it’s about learning to accept that there are going to be waves and learn to ride them or float until they pass.
I truly do believe that my life after Hashi’s can be better than ever and that it has much to teach me yet about acceptance, gratitude, hope and determination.